Category: Christmas



Well, here it is; my favorite blog of the year. I truly love to drive around and look at Christmas lights. I also love to point out how way out of control some people get when decorating. Suffice it to say, some of you are still not paying attention. It’s not that I think the fewer decorations you put out the better, but for those of you who have read this blog the last few years you know that there are a few rules for tasteful decoration.

"Houston, we have a problem..."

“Houston, we have a problem…”

#1 rule: Don’t use every decoration you have. I mean really, if planes are diverting from their flight paths because they think your yard is the runway, you have too many lights out. If your electric meter is spinning so fast you can barely see it, too many. If you get accolades from the International Space Station, too many.

100_0389Here is a local example from near where I live. It is neatly done and the lights are straight but good Lord! This falls under the; “You don’t need to put out every decoration you own,” category.  Yes Virginia, it is a blinding mess. It is not the worst one I have ever seen but for all intents and purposes, it’s very loud and almost painful. I also hate the lighted shapes. They are really ugly and you can get away with one or two tastefully selected ones but some people go way, way out of control.

Really? Are you serious?

Really? Are you serious?

Lighted shapes are ugly and if you live in a housing plan with a covenant, this could get you tossed from there. Of course, if you live in a nice neighborhood this could get your house egged or vandalized in some other way. Decorating your house like this can make property values in your entire neighborhood drop. Thankfully there are no houses decorated like this near me, this year, but there are those who have no idea that they are committing first degree eye-slaughter for doing this. Now hopefully I’m not giving you the idea that I abhor certain kinds of decorations and will hammer anyone who uses them. Not true. I like all kinds of decorations but if you misuse them, I will let you know about it. I guess it’s just like anything; moderation is the key. If you go overboard with anything it is not good. Christmas decorations are the same way. I feel that decorations are meant to heighten the holiday experience, not horrify and frighten those exposed to them. I know some of  think I’m out of my skull but nonetheless, I enjoy doing this and I will probably continue.

Someone give me my Red Ryder BB Gun...

Someone give me my Red Ryder BB Gun…

Inflatable decorations can be attractive and a nice way to decorate if you are short on time or room. But I digress, This example of what not to do with inflatables is one I could consider an extreme case. However it is not the most extreme. I guess my next pet peeve with these kinds of decorations is that you should make sure they are working properly. Lights burnt out, not inflated or laying over in your yard make your display look like something out of “Hllbilly Digest”.

"Man down! Man Down!"

“Man down! Man Down!”

Like I was saying. Make sure your your inflatables  are properly working and secured in your yard. This little scenario could be very traumatic to some poor little tot who would happen to see Santa laying in your yard. Now our weather has been a little funky the last couple of  weeks, but I know even I will periodically check my decorations mainly to be sure they haven’t blown away but also to be sure they are still where I put them to start. The last thing I want is to find my reindeer across the street in my neighbors yard. Now this year I saw a new inflatable decoration that I think I like as much as Santa in the trailer; Santa in an outhouse. I thought it was really funny and will probably seek one out. I still threaten my neighbor that I’m going to get a Santa on a Harley inflatable.

100_0379I guess the next peeve I have is lights. People, lets make sure they are working. some people have their decorations out from Thanksgiving or earlier but if you are going to do that you will more than likely have to perform some maintenence on them. I know myself I have a couple of bulbs out that need replaced but it is not really noticeable. This example to the left is really obvious. Another one I’m not sure I took a picture of was the mixing of lights. LED is the new craze and that is fine. I don’t like the mix of LED and incandescent. The light from the LED is harsher I think and doesn’t go well with the Incandescent. However, the blue LED icicle lights seem to go with the white incandescent lights the best. My wife likes to decorate for the season, not just necessarily the holiday and we use blue for winter so the blue LED icicles would be a nice addition to our winter themed house while the snow flies.

As I get ready to end this I guess it’s not fair that I’ve only shown you the bad and the ugly. It would only be fair to show you the good as well.

While we usually do red and green, this is a nice example of blue and green

While we usually do red and green, this is a nice example of blue and green

Some people still like the retro look of the big C-9 bulbs. I do too.

Some people still like the retro look of the big C-9 bulbs. I do too.

No matter where I see it, you have to love the leg lamp... It is a major award.

No matter where I see it, you have to love the leg lamp… It is a major award.

How to string lights in a tree. Use icicle lights... Nice job!

How to string lights in a tree. Use icicle lights… Nice job!

Another nice use of white lights.

Another nice use of white lights.

I make a point to go see this display every year. What a nice job.

I make a point to go see this display every year. What a nice job.

As I leave you for yet another year I plead with all of you to safely decorate this year. Remember, you are not the only one who will see your display. Let’s stop those needless decoration injuries from those exposed to the most hideous. I hope you all have a nice Christmas and New Years and with all the chiding I did here today, lets keep the true meaning of Christmas in the season and keep Christ in Christmas. Peace to all from all of us here at ATCMC.


“Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things…”

We are moving full speed ahead into into the holiday season. I would be remiss if I didn’t throw my barbs in as well. Every year it seems that the decorations hit the stores earlier each year. I’m sure they will start showing up right after the 4th of July next year. It’s this time of year I think back to traditions that our family observed every year. Most families do the same things each holiday season and my family was no different. Usually 2 or 3 days before Christmas eve, my dad and either myself or one of my brothers would go out and select our family’s Christmas tree. If it was on a week day we didn’t have school on the night before Christmas so the day was spent decorating. The tree would go up right after lunch and the ornaments would go on. We all had our own so it was a time that we all spent together. My parents had a string of aluminum foil balls that they had on their first Christmas tree when they were married. That and a 20 year old popcorn string went on as well. After the tree was decorated we would take a trip to a place in Indiana called Lumley’s.  It was a place that sold ornaments and each year we would all go and buy a new one.

After the tree was up and decorated we then would have dinner. My mom being Italian would once in a while make fish in homage of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. I didn’t like fish so I would eat something else. The actual Feast is Sicilian and was comprised of; Baccala, Calamari, Shrimp, Clams, Crab, some type of Whitefish and Clams/Muscles. Nowadays with money being tight for everyone the Feast of the Seven Fishes might consist of; Starkist, Mrs. Pauls, Gortons, Sea Pack, Chicken of the sea, Sea Queen and if you can afford it, Long John Silvers. After dinner we each got to open 1 present and it was then that my brothers and I would exchange our gifts. Midnight mass was on the horizon. I still laugh at the old joke; “What time does midnight mass start?” and every year my mom, dad, myself and 3 brothers would travel to church for the hour and a half to almost 2 hour service.  Then we would go home and climb into bed to wait for “Santa” to arrive and deliver our presents. There would be the occasional thump and “shit” would be heard from the living room.

Christmas morning would be spent tearing into our gifts and thanking “Santa” for our booty. Relatives would stop and visit and deliver their gifts and thankfully none of them were as hideous as a pink bunny costume from Aunt Clara. If we actually slept in past the crack of dawn my parents were grateful. Usually though we were up, gifts were torn open and we were ready to go back to sleep before the rooster would have cock-a-doodle-dooed… It is this time that I realize that so many of us have lost sight of what this time is truly about. For businesses they think it’s  about returning to the black (Hence the name Black Friday), for kids they decide it’s time to be good so Santa will leave them something besides coal or Reindeer poop, for parents they stress over trying to find the money to give their kids everything they want for Christmas and because the stress level is so damn high, everyone is in jagoff mode while they shop for their gifts and holiday fare. It’s a shame too. It just goes to show that no one truly understands what this time of year means. It’s a shame because somehow the Christmas season has become about spending obscene amounts of money… And for what? To please your child who within 2 weeks will see “The next big thing” on TV and the gift you stood in line for over 30 hours will be forgotten…

shitters full

You also have to consider the guests that will be visiting your house.  While most of them are loved family members there are those who wear out their welcome 20 minutes after they arrive. With everyone stressing about it being the holidays, unwanted guests will heighten your stress level even higher. Always remember though that as host you have the right to invite and ask to leave anyone you want. If you are having an open house you might want to keep the food and drink to a minimum. You don’t need to break the bank for some finger food and beverages. Normally this is where I would start going off about hideous decorations but as we have become accustomed to, I will be doing my annual “Exterior Illumination” blog in a week or two. Much to my shock, I haven’t seen many outside light displays so far this year.

I will take this opportunity to end now and begin the arduous preparation for my lighting blog sure to make everyone smile this year. It’s a time consuming blog to write but I do look forward to it each and every year. Until then… Peace


The little lights aren’t twinkling Clark.”

I know Art and thank you for noticing…”– Clark Griswold to his father-in-law.

It’s that time of the year again. The time where I conclude my two-part series on what not to do with exterior Christmas decorations. I borrowed my sub-title from my colleagues over at One Man’s Tofu because it really is a crime to do bad things with your holiday exterior illumination. Like I have said in the past, the decorations are as much for your enjoyment as everyone else. I applaud anyone who takes the time to decorate their home and yard but it should be a matter of pride to you to do it well.

In preparation for part II, many miles were driven to ensure I was being fair. Last year I only took pictures around the town I live in, but this year I also drove to the two neighboring boroughs of Latrobe and Blairsville. While I was mainly looking for the worst of the worst, I did find those who take the utmost pride in planning and decorating. Some decorations were very lavish and many lights of different types were used, others were simple. All of them I took pictures of though were worth mentioning, either goodly or badly.

Planning & Maintaining

Light Clips are worth the money

Command tabs are a God send

I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. You first have to make the decision to decorate, then decide the extent you wish go to. Whether you want a small, simple display or one that can be seen from space, neatness counts. The main thing I guess is don’t just throw your lights at your house or fence and hope they stick. I always use some type of media to get my lights straight. When I outline my roof, I always use clips. They come in a box of 100 and cost around $3. I can guarantee that you will be happy you made this cheap investment. I have a metal awning on the front of my house. I used the command hooks made for Christmas lights. There are around 20 in a pack. These are a tad more expensive but they work wonderfully and you can remove them when you take your lights down. Also make sure that when you use extension cords try to keep them hidden or a subtle color. Nothing will make your beautifully planned display look more like shit then having bright orange or yellow extension cords running through the middle of it.

As you can see, don't leave your lights burnt out.

You also need to make sure you have enough lights to do what you want to do. A display with a huge empty spot or a pile of lights on the end looks like doo-doo. All of the lights should be operational as well. I have lighted wreaths on my house and I use mini lights. When strands of mini lights go bad usually only half of them go out. Like in my case, I end up with only a half-lighted wreath. That, my friends, looks bad. It also looks like you don’t care. You have to fix or replace them. I agree it is a pain in the arse but a necessary evil of decorating. Now I don’t want you to think this is the only house I found like this. It wasn’t. However, I thought it was a good example. You must remember that Christmas lights are like a pet. You have to care for them the entire time you have them up. Half burnt-out displays look horrible and all you need to do is just keep up on them. That doesn’t mean have a constant watch on your lights to make sure you replace the burnt out bulbs the second they go out, but they should be replaced as soon a possible to avoid creating the neighborhood eyesore.

Oh my Lord” or What Not to Do

LED's & Incandescent, a bad combination

Take down your sports signs

I have always said don’t mix your light types. As you can see in the photo on the left, don’t mix LED lights with incandescent. I like LED’s but I don’t care much for the white ones. The lumens they give off are a little harsh for my taste and look almost industrial. Then you mix white LED with white incandescent and it looks like you didn’t have enough of either light and just threw them together and hoped no one would notice it. The picture on the right shows a neon Pittsburgh Penguins sign. It doesn’t go with the white incandescent lights weaved around the porch railing with pine. That looks very nice and elegant but then add in the sign and it looks like eff.

Another fad this year is syncing your lights to music. If it is done well it is an awesome addition to your display. Here are two examples, one of what not to do and then when it is done to the max. And the second one isn’t even the best I’ve seen. [What not to do] It’s actually not a bad start but here is what you would want it to look like. [What to do]. I think this is a really nice touch to a display but it requires a great deal of time to set up and synchronize.

Santa had a stroke.

A herd of lighted deer

Inflatables are nice, but c’mon folks, did no one read and heed my posts last year? Yes, the little light is on inside Santa, but he looks like he had a stroke and he is looking for his life alert because he fell and can’t get up. No matter how nice the rest of your display looks, this takes all that work you did and makes it look like doo-doo.  You should either fix Santa or get him out of the yard. The herd of lighted deer on the right is pretty bad, too. This is only one of 4 pictures I took in this yard. Like I always say, I’m sure you have nice decorations from many years but you don’t need to try and fit them all in your yard at the same time. The yard on the right is cluttered and looks terrible and is quite an eye sore.

Offenders Revisited

"Houston, we have a problem..."

"The Doctor will see you now..."

I still enjoy driving around and seeing those displays that go up year after year. The display on the left is about 2 blocks from my house and we can see it plain as day. I mean, everything is straight and placed well, there is just way too much going on here. There are too many different types of decorations to be a nice display. This is more of a display you put up to piss your neighbors off, if you have problems with them. The one on the right is still probably my all-time favorite. Last year I wasn’t sure if it was the portal to Hell or if the homeowner was a gynecologist. I saw the display in the daylight and it looked like a wreath. The problem is, in the night-time it looks like either an obscene effigy or a portal that just puked a sleigh out. At least he is consistent every year.

Nicely Done

These are two nice examples of nicely done. I like the white lights and simple wreaths. To me this is as elegant as simple decorations can get. Spot lights mixed with the soft white lights woven into pine boughs or wreaths looks very nice and is quite cost-effective as well. With the price of everything going through the roof, including Christmas lights, it’s nice to find a cheaper alternative to be able to nicely decorate your home for the holidays and do it without busting the bank either.

I hope I didn’t give you the wrong idea about lighting your house and yard. I know I like white lights for simple elegance but these two pictures are examples of lighting your house and yard with colored. If it is done nicely, it makes all the difference. The house on the left takes a lot of time I’m sure. It is neatly done and looks nice as you drive past. I know both homes are a contradiction to what I normally say, you know, “You shouldn’t be able to see your house from the International Space Station…” but I think these two houses look especially nice and well done.

As I conclude this please always remember. You need to decorate with what you like, not what I or anyone else thinks. I know I bust a few balls on here but in the end, if you are happy with your decorations then that is all that matters. Before I go, I’ll leave you with a final picture just so we all remember what this season is really all about. MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS – ATCMC Staff

What the season is all about

Even Santa Knows


We are within 2 weeks of Christmas, so we all are rushing to finish our shopping, hoping we find the perfect gift for everyone on our list. We here at ATCMC were surprised to see our request for an interview with the big man, the one and only, was finally granted. Yes, we are talking about Santa himself. Our surprise was actually two-fold. First off, we figured he would be way to busy to have time for an interview this close to Christmas and second, but probably even bigger, we just plain forgot about it. We had submitted our interview request to the North Pole Media Office in February. Now, we had to meet one condition from St. Nick himself; we had to do the interview at his workshop at the North Pole. We blew the dust off of our passport and decided we would mark this historic occasion with something special.

We received a bottle of 15 year-old single malt scotch from the managing editor over at One Man’s Tofu (OMT) last Christmas and waited for just the right time to break it out. We also packed a holiday tin filled with Nutter-Butters. Dave at OMT told us they were his favorite for any big interview or meeting he had. When we arrived at the North Pole we were warmly greeted and ushered into Mr. Claus’ office. When he came in we were in awe. He truly was a jolly old elf and he eyed our gifts with a gleam in his eye. Below is the interview.

ATCMC – “Mr. Claus, thank you for granting us an interview at what has to be your busiest time of the year.”

SC- “You are more than welcome Bob. Um, are you pouring?”

ATCMC- “Sorry about that.” I nervously chuckled as I filled his glass with ice and poured the scotch. “How has it been going this year? Have there been any major issues?”

SC- “Well, we had a supply problem early in the year and we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to fix it in time to begin production.”

ATCMC- “I’m assuming it all worked out.”

SC- “The supply problem was easy and we have been at peak production for the last 6 months.”

ATCMC- “What seems to be the most sought after toy this year?”

SC- “For the boys, fire trucks are making a comeback.”

ATCMC- “Fire trucks?”

SC- “That’s right. I was as shocked as you are. I figured the X-Box, Play Station and Nintendo DS along with their games were going to be topping the list, but at least 75% of the letters I got from boys said they wanted fire trucks, oh, and Lincoln Logs.”

ATCMC- “Okay, now I’m really lost.”

SC- “Well it’s a new game everyone is playing. The way the kids explained it to me is, they build houses out of Lincoln Logs. Then they use a lighter and set the house on fire at which time they flip a coin. Heads, the $75 fire protection fee was paid and the fire trucks respond to put the fire out. Tails it wasn’t. If it wasn’t paid the fire trucks still go to the fire but they just stand around and watch it burn. They call it “South Fulton Tennessee Roulette”.”

ATCMC- “That sounds pretty sick to me.”

SC- “It’s a new fad. Just like platform shoes and bell bottoms.”

ATCMC- “Yeah, but those things didn’t seem to work out real well.” Santa smiled and took a bite of his Nutter-Butter. “What toys are filling the girls fancy?” I asked, trying to keep on point.

SC- “The Kim Kardashian doll.”

ATCMC- “What is so special about that?”

SC- “She gets paid a million dollars to marry Ken, then in 75 days she files for divorce and can do it all over again. It’s all part of our ‘Fake Boobs and Real Assholes’ collection. It also has dolls of Jerry Sandusky, Ndukmong Suh, John Harbaugh, Roger Goodell, Kate Gosselin, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Casey Anthony and Edward Cain.”

ATCMC- I smiled, seeing that ole Saint Nick still had his sense of humor even after everything going on in the world. We chatted for another half hour or so until Santa finished his 2nd scotch and about a half dozen Nutter-Butters. Then he asked me if I would like a tour of the compound. “I thought you’d never ask.” I blurted out.

SC- “The only thing I ask is that you take no pictures.”

ATCMC- We walked outside and he led me around many of the out buildings that make up his workshop. There was a bank, grocery store, infirmary, even a Wal-Mart. “What’s up with Wal-Mart?” I asked.

SC- “Sam Walton made me a hell of a deal to put one here. My only stipulation was that they had to start slowly putting out the Christmas stuff right after Labor Day.”

ATCMC- “If you have elves working in your workshop, who works at Wal-Mart?”

SC- “Everyone starts out there before they come to work in my workshop. By starting out there, they learn how to work within a team dynamic. They also learn how to work for no money or benefits and dreadfully long hours. That way when they come to work for me they receive a great wage, free medical and dental, two fifteen minute breaks and 45 minutes for lunch. They are happier and more productive. It’s a win-win situation for me.”

ATCMC- “How has it worked out for you?”

SC- “My production increases every year and my turnover is less than 2%, where their turnover is 60% or higher.”

ATCMC- “That is completely amazing.” We walked and chatted for a few more minutes when he took me to the one place I had been waiting to see since I got here; the workshop.

SC- “Keep in mind, you are the first non-elf to ever see inside.”

ATCMC- I was in awe. It was not high-tech and modernized as I had expected it to be. Instead, everything was hand made to insure attention to detail. Oh, there were some modern machines to assist in the production but for the most part it was still done the way it has been done there for ever. As he led me through the various areas I noticed that no one seemed disgruntled or miserable, instead they all had smiles on their faces and worked lovingly to produce the toys and gifts that would be enjoyed by children all over the world. As we walked near the break room and cafeteria I noticed something that seemed surprising to me. Santa’s explanation was even more astounding. There was a nativity scene. When I asked Santa about it he said this to me.

SC- “This is what this time of year is really about. It’s about remembering that Christmas isn’t about a tree or presents or parties or bonuses. It’s to celebrate, not only the birth of Christ but all of those who have made sacrifices to allow us to enjoy the things we have today.”

ATCMC- I wiped a tear from my eye as we walked out so I could catch my ride back to the airport for my ride home. I thanked him for the time he spared and he simply nodded his head.

SC- “Remember what Christmas is about and keep it in your life this time of year.”

I smiled on my way to the airport when something hit me. He kept my damn Nutter-Butters and bottle of scotch.


The Griswold House

The Griswold House from Space

It’s that time of year again. Time for my two-part series on the crimes committed with Christmas lights. I have had a few submissions of hideous or hilarious displays and some have just been found while searching the internet. I have to admit that I have found some new ones this year. They might not be what you would want on your house but they are funny nonetheless. Like I said, not everyone would want to do their house like Clark Griswold’s but some people have still not realized just how horrible using the wrong exterior illumination can really be. Even now as I drive around my neighborhood I find people who are less worried about aesthetics and would rather risk a charge of 1st degree eye slaughter.

Selection and Placement

Don't dwarf your home with your display

You might want to reconsider displaying EVERY decoration you own

As always, what you put out is as important as were you put it. The snow man on the left is better suited for a stadium or office building, not Clem Lipshit’s ranch house. If your decorations are close to getting snagged in the power lines, they are way too effing big and you deserve to get them ripped off your house. If they are inflatable, the shouldn’t be so big that people in your neighborhood walk around light-headed because of your inflatable sucking all of the oxygen out of the atmosphere.  The house on the right is an example of, “Rip them all down and try again”. I’m sure a lot of you have very nice outside decorations. You shouldn’t put ALL of them out together.  There is such a thing as overkill and then there is “Holy shit, is that moron serious?” First of all, it looks like hell, second of all there is no discernible style other than Yard Sale or Junk Yard. You want people to drive past your house and say, “Now that is very nice and Christmassy” not, ” Oh my lord, they must be blind or under the influence.” Remember, Christmas decorations are as much for other people’s enjoyment as yours.

Decorations

You can always try something new

Maybe how you feel about the holidays

Sometimes the traditional route isn’t for everyone. Many people take what is plain and dress it up. The Santa on the left is a great example of that. I wish I would have thought of it. I’m sure after drinking gallons of milk on his journey, Santa pisses off of a few rooftops. After all the cookies those probably aren’t lumps pf coal either. The deer on the right is pretty funny too. It could either be the home owner’s feeling about the holidays or maybe he is just a deer hunter. Either way it is still a good example of something new and unusual. In both cases you see a traditional decoration used in a new way and with a new piece for your display. Some call it re-purposing. I call it hilarious. Some people have the ability to be funny and still keep the spirit in Christmas. It is not a time to  become so serious you can’t see humor. I mean, I drive around my neighborhood and laugh my ass off so it is possible.

Yet another colorful use of old decorations

Still speechless on this one

Here are two more examples of re-purposing your tired old decorations to be re-used in a new way adding life to them instead of ending up on a trash heap somewhere. I have seen the two deer before in many yards over the years. Of course the word “vandalism”  was usually attached to it as well.  Geeze, some people just have no sense of humor. That’s not vandalism, it’s a metaphor for what the economy is doing to all of us this time of year.  The use of lights on the truck here could be for several reasons.  Perhaps they had an extra couple of strands of lights or maybe the truck is broken down and this was their way of trying to hide and display their piece of junk at the same time. Hopefully they don’t try to drive it. Besides, I think it looks so nice next to the trailer.

Cost

Christmas Wreath

O' Tannenbaum

Here is a way to decorate without spending much money at all. The tire wreath is a very nice piece and shows imagination as well as being frugal. I’m sure the guy on the left owns a farm or something of that nature. The only cost he had was more than likely a can of green paint and some ribbon.  Very nice and neatly done.  The tree on the right is just as interesting as well. Once again, done in tires but still nicely executed.  So many times people just don’t care what their decorations look like. To me, you might as well not even bother putting them up because then they look like eff.  You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on your outside decorations to make them look nice. These two examples show that nicely. Decorate with what you have, don’t deplete your holiday budget to decorate your yard.

So this will conclude part 1. Part 2 will include some pictures from our area and just others that I find funny. I thank all of you who read this and the second part and take it in the spirit it is written by laughing your arse off. As always, enjoy the holidays and decorate safely.


It's holiday party time again

Most of you enjoy my “101” entries. Like Exterior Illumination 101. I figure it’s that time of year and I have attended enough dud Christmas parties that I thought I would pass along a few things. Now I realize that some of these parties will have alcohol. That in itself makes any of what I’m going to say here null and void. But that being said, a certain level of decorum should also be applied here. Hopefully, my entry today will keep you from flopping  in your party endeavors.

Cleaning your home for the party

If you are hosting a holiday party you are forced to clean. It’s not the funnest thing you will do to prepare but it is a necessary evil. Most of us feel like we keep our places pretty neat and organized but when hosting a party it is imperative to go nuts. When you clean, you must clean everywhere. Even places where you think people won’t look because you will always have someone who decides to snoop while they are attending the party. To that end, make sure you thin out your medicine cabinet and take out all of your narcotics and psych meds. You don’t want someone to find out how stoned or catatonic you are every day. Also, you don’t want to leave anything out that people might find offensive so slip your resin encrusted bong, comic books, Playboy Magazines or Qur’an  into a dresser drawer. Put your Play Station or X-Box away and keep your house ready for the inflow of guests about to arrive.

Decorations

It is important to remember to keep it simple when you decorate for your party. You must remember though that how you decorate can make or break it. You want your home to be warm and inviting to enhance the experience. A crackling fire in the fireplace can do that. It doesn’t matter if your fireplace is gas or wood or one of those inserts that just looks like a fire, it makes the atmosphere more attractive. If you don’t have a fireplace no big deal, you can still have a nice time without it. Do Not run to the dollar store and buy the ticky tacky DVD that shows a fire in a fireplace for your TV. That is just sad. That is worse than dressing up your dog in a Santa Clause outfit. Make sure your decorations are right for the season. You don’t want to have pumpkins out for a Christmas party. Also, keep them cheap. If something gets broken you don’t want it to be a family heirloom.You also want to have your own style of decorating. Don’t copy what everyone else is doing. It just shows a lack of your own ideas or creativeness.

Food and Drinks

What edibles and refreshments you have at your party is up to you and what your guests like. If it’s not a formal dinner party then anything you want is up for grabs. Since most holiday parties you will attend are not formal then dress should also be informal. The food can be anything from finger foods to covered dish. No matter what you plan on having, you should decided if you want people to bring anything or if you are going to provide it all. If you want to make it all yourself, make sure you are prepared for the amount of work it is going to be. You can’t just throw out a couple bags of chips and pretzels and leave it at that no matter how much booze you intend to serve. Even those drinking will want something more than stale potato chips and a .98cent container of French Onion dip to tide them over for the night. There many things you can make for finger food that won’t take much time to prepare. There are pigs in a blanket. Those are just cocktail weenies wrapped in Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough and baked. They are simple and fast to make. Then there are my personal favorites. Queso Dip and Buffalo Chicken Dip. The Queso dip tastes like the kind they serve at Chili’s. Below are two recipes.

Queso Dip                                                                                     Buffalo Chicken Dip

1-15oz can beanless chili                                                      2-10oz cans chunk chicken breast

(Hormel or other brand)                                                      2-8oz packages cream cheese softened

1-16oz can refried beans                                                      1-cup ranch dressing

1-150z can nacho sauce                                                       3/4-cup hot sauce (Franks or Red Hot)

(Ricco’s or any other brand)                                             1 1/2-cups shredded cheddar cheese

Sprinkle in some mexican

shredded cheese (Co-Jack)                                               Heat chicken and hot sauce in a pan

Mix chili, refried beans and                                             until blended, then add ranch dressing

nacho cheese sauce in a pan                                           and ½ of the cheddar cheese. Transfer to

until blended then move to                                           a crock pot and serve with celery or chicken

a crock pot and serve with                                             flavored crackers or chips of your liking

tortilla chips.

Drinks can be anything you want. Some people host non-alcoholic beverages but most serve at least beer. There is usually some sort of bar for guests to mix their own drink if they desire or just to do shots. Some parties feature one or two mixed drinks depending on who is there and taste. Rum and Coke or Whiskey and Coke are usually popular choices. Some like Scotch and soda or Gin and tonic or even martini’s.  Myself, I don’t like Gin. I think it’s like drinking pine tar but some people absolutely love it.  I’m a screwdriver guy. Vodka is good if mixed properly. Some people can totally eff a drink up by overdoing it. Lynchberg Leomonade is good if you have the desire and skill to mix it properly. An important thing to remember is to take car keys if you are serving alcohol. If someone leaves your party and is involved in a DUI accident, you, as the host, can be held accountable. If there are juveniles there (under 21) and they imbibe, then get arrested for DUI or public intoxication, you are really up shit creek without a paddle. I don’t think much of people who provide alcohol for minors no matter how you try to make it right, it isn’t. If you think it is, then why don’t you go have drinks with Jerry Sandusky.

Entertainment

Whatever you do to entertain your guests is totally up to you. Karaoke has become a popular option in the last few years. There are board games and drinking games and a host of other things you can do. Whatever you choose depends a lot on your guests. Sometimes just music playing in the background is all you need. There are several different genres you can choose from and some just choose instrumentals.  It also depends on what you like. A few people at work have started listening to a band called Crash City. (Listen here) They are a local band from Pittsburgh and they have a really good sound. I think they are much better then some of the other hack bands out there. They just released their new EP this weekend at stage AE in Pittsburgh.  No matter what you do choose to do you must remember who is at your party. If there are kids you must keep your games rated “G” but no higher than “PG”.

Gifts

Depending on the type of party you are having and who you are inviting will determine if they are to bring gifts. For just a regular old Christmas party at your friend’s house, a gift isn’t required. If it is a formal dinner party then the guests will bring a bottle of wine or gourmet cheese or something like that. For your regular Christmas party, unless you are doing secret Santa or have some sort of game where a present is given then usually the only thing people bring is a covered dish or a six-pack or something to that end. So suffice it to say, gifts are not usually required unless you really want to suck up.

Guests

I guess the last and most important thing to discuss is who to invite. I think a lot of it depends on what type of experience you want your guests to have. If you plan on having your parents or in-laws, you might not want to invite the guy who gets plowed and makes a colossal jagoff out of themselves. Also, because your home will be open to many people, you might not want to invite anyone you don’t know that well. It would suck to wake up and start cleaning up the next morning and find your electronics, jewelry and other valuables have been ripped off. Has it happened to people before? Yes it has. I’m not saying that the only people who should be invited to your party are your closest, most trusted friends, I’m just saying to use caution and keep alert when people you don’t know real well are at your party. As long as your friends are who you invite you can be sure to have a great time. Friends accept you no matter what and will always be there and be happy no matter what you do.

In closing, just keep your party safe and fun and you will have great success. In the end it’s up to you what you do. No matter what you decide, and remember that if you aren’t completely sure what to do or what to have, ask your friends. They will be the ones attending and might even offer to help you out with preparation. Happy Holidays to all!!


As we move further into November we take a quick breath before the end of the year holidays get here. We search for a handle on the entire PSU tragedy, and I, for one, am disgusted by all the media hype over it. There are people who think Jo Pa is a God and should not have been fired. While Paterno might not have molested those kids and did report what was reported to him, he didn’t do what was morally right. He opted to protect the football program and the university.  I actually don’t feel bad that he got fired.  Had he acted responsibly and morally when it happened the university wouldn’t be under fire and scrutiny like they are now. There are even reports that students are transferring from the university because they no longer want to be associated with the campus. Even Governor Tom Corbet felt that the police should have been involved much, much sooner then they were. He is also making moves to change the laws regarding these types of crimes. I consider any crime against a child heinous and an abomination. You took the pure, honest trust that a child has in an adult and threw it away. I feel that everyone involved with this case in some shape or another should face the maximum punishment by law. Yes, even the Almighty Joe Paterno.

Pittsburgh rebounded from their close loss to Baltimore last week by owning the Bengals on Sunday. Pittsburgh seemed to be the team of old as they moved the ball at will while Cincinnati had no answer for Pittsburgh’s offense. Bruce Aryans and Roethlisberger used everyone on the offense and spread the ball around. I must admit that the Bengals Rookie QB Andy Dalton looks like he is the real deal. Cincinnati did a good job eliminating the huge hole they had in the play-caller position by trading Carson Palmer and Dalton could be the right fit. Time will tell. It’s only his first season and I have seen many a QB fall apart after the rookie season. By the time it was over Pittsburgh was on top 24-17 and a pick near the two-minute warning by William Gay sealed the game for the Black and Gold. Good job boys, it’s nice to move into a bye week coming off a win. They return to action on the 27th in Kansas City for an 8:20 game against the Chiefs.

It's almost that time

It is almost that time of year that I so look forward to. That time when normally normal people lose their minds and crash the value of their homes by uglying it up with as many Christmas abominations as they can find. I have already started driving around looking for those people with no taste or common sense when it comes to exterior illumination. I have asked once, but anyone who finds a hideous Christmas display please take a picture and e-mail it to me so I might include it in this year’s addition of Exterior Illumination. The deadline will be around the week before Christmas. If you do send me a picture, please include your name and where the picture was taken. I’ll make sure you get credit for it. Enjoy this time of year and please, use discretion when decorating for Christmas. I’d hate to have to include you in this year’s addition…

We are quickly closing in on Turkey Day and I am looking forward to time with family and friends. As we get close to the end of the year we need to remember all we have and should be thankful for. Please use this time of the year to do for someone else. Many people are in need and everyone should have somewhere to go and people to be with.

Exterior Illumination Part Deux


Okay, I felt this was an important issue to revisit.  As I drive around my neighborhood and surrounding areas I have found that some of you have not payed attention to me.  The inflatable still abound in several of the displays.  Last night as I drove around I found one house near Lake Ethel that had nothing but inflatables.  The major problem is that none of them went together.  They had several different genres from the traditional Christmas to Disney.  The problem is that it looks like they dumped the box out on the lawn and plugged them in.  There was no delineation between them.  I couldn’t even get a good enough picture to do it justice.  Another display had Santa laying on his side like he had a stroke and the light inside flickered on and off.  Please folks, keep your displays together and operational.

In the borough where I live there is one house that, as I stated in an earlier post, can be seen from the Space Station.

"Houston, we see a bright light on the ground..."

As you can see, there are several different things going on here.  The roof line is outlined.  I don’t have a problem with that.  If it is done right and is straight then it gives a nice accent.  Now you have the pre-formed decorations.  By themselves they look very nice, add them in with several different ideas and they look like eff.  You have the candy canes on  the front walk.  Add them in with the preformed decorations on the lawn under the windows and you have a visually disturbing display.

Side yard of the same house

This is the side yard of the same house.  All I have to say is, “Oh Lord.”  Add in the rest of the house along with this and oh, my word!  There is too much going on and it becomes an eye sore.  I had to adjust the exposure on my camera; it kept washing out because there was too much light.  I don’t mean to be hyper-critical but you can see the house from several blocks away.  Those who try to decorate and be subtle are overshadowed by those that make the neighborhood look like daylight.

As I continued my drive around the neighborhoods I did find several houses that had managed to  hang outdoor decorations that were esthetically pleasing to the eye and neighborhood.

This is how to decorate without drowning the rest of the neighborhood

This house, I thought, was a very nicely done house.  My wife even commented how elegant it looked.  There was still enough snow on the ground that the soft white mini-lights in the shrubs accent each other nicely.  It also shows the proper use of icicle lights.  I actually saw one house that had used them in a tree.  Not appropriate.

Another nice example

This is another nice example.  The exposure was a little off but you get the idea.  They went with one theme and did it well.  Once again, a nice use of lighting in combination with the snow.  All of the shrubs are done not just a few.  They are covered with lights and I see none with any huge glaring gaps.  There is a simple decoration on each window and through the living room window you can see the tree done in the white lights also.  Very nice.

"Welcome to Hell's portal..."

I’m trying to figure out what the theme is here.  Is this the portal to hell or is the home owner a gynecologist?  It is not clear what the enclosure around the porch is.  Beside the space portal was Santa on his sleigh.  Did he just emerge from there or is he caught in it’s tractor beam.  I don’t know.  I also saw a house where they used the net lights on their shrubs.  However, the shrubs were huge and they only used one set of net lights.  It ended up looking like the bush sprung a leak and they put a patch on it.  Not a good look.

This wins the WTF award For Eewwww.

This house can be seen from the highway and this picture does not do it justice.  There are so many things going on here that it looks like the decorations were put up with a leaf blower.  My wife and I actually figured out that this was the back of the house.  We tried to see what the front looked like but it was on a private drive so we couldn’t get to it.  That was probably a good idea because if this was the back we could only imagine what the front looked like.

This was my daughter's favorite decoration

The plywood decorations are still around and I have to say I actually like them.  I have a reindeer and Santa with his sleigh in front of my house.  This is a moose near our house.  It is close to 10 feet tall.  It does however  look nice in the yard because there are not 100 other decorations thrown together with it.

Stick with a theme...

In closing, stick with a theme.  If you want to use multi-colored lights fine, then stick with them.  If you want to use all white, fine.  If you use regular lights, don’t mix them with LED.  The lumens given off are different and you will have bright and soft.  Last thing to remember and this is probably the most important.  My opinion doesn’t matter.  What you like is the final measuring stick.  Some people don’t like what we do to our house.  We like it so that is all that matters.   My neighbor feels the same way.  However she still won’t let us put an inflatable Santa on a Harley or a blow-mold Frosty.  Never decorate based on what someone else likes.  Try and consider your neighbors when you do though.  You don’t want to piss your neighbors off by your ostentatious, visually disturbing display.  Not to mention, you don’t want to be cited for first degree eye slaughter…


Since there were a few items on the plate this week I thought I’d try to summarize for everyone.

Dancing with the Stars. According to pundits, this final week of Dancing with the Stars saw a record amount of votes.  There were so many people casting votes that the system actually crashed several times in 12 hours.

Bristol Palin on DWTS

Bristol Palin was the cause for the record amount of votes.  There were rumors afloat that her mother was using her, what ever it is she has, to get people to vote for her daughter.  Bristol of course ate it up as well.  When asked if it was all Tea Party members voting she responded in true Palin fashion  with, “I don’t think it’s just Republicans voting for me, I think it’s Democrats too.”  Wow!   With an unintelligible answer like that she has a real future in politics.  Just look at her mother.  She wanted Bristol to win more for herself and helping her future political aspirations than for her daughter.   No matter the reason, Bristol let her mother down and was the first sent home that night.  Sorry, Sarah, I guess you’ll have to rely on your own shortcomings to get elected and not use anyone else.

Steelers record amount of penalty yards

On Sunday, November 21st.  The Steelers played the Oakland Raiders.  Pittsburgh saw a game where they were called for 22 penalties adding up to a record 160+ yards.  The game saw Pittsburgh rout the Raiders 35-3 in a contest that was more lopsided than the score showed.  The Steelers couldn’t fart without referee Tony Corrente throwing the yellow

Referee Tony Corrente

linen on the turf. It was horrible.  You could see the frustration on all of the Steelers faces as the game wore on.  I heard one of the commentators comment to the other, “Do you think the refs are just trying to enforce the new rule changes or do they adjust how they call the game depending on who is playing.”  I would have to agree with that.  I’ve never seen such one-sided penalty calling in my life.  If the Steelers breathed heavy on the Raiders quarterback the flag was in the air.  The only time there was any parity in penalty calling was when a Raider smacked Roethlisberger in the face after a Steeler touchdown.  Jack Lambert said in the 70’s when they tried the same thing that, “they should put the quarterbacks in dresses.”

Black Friday 2010

Black Friday 2010 was one of the biggest retail selling days since 2006.  The upswing in the economy is obviously the reason.  I have to admit though, I am just as guilty as everyone else.  I was in line at 10:30 Thanksgiving night at Toys R Us looking for a couple of “hard to find” gifts.  It was pouring rain and cold and I was no better than the folks I had made fun of all these years.  The best part was that after I stood in the rain for two and a half hours, I still walked out empty-handed.  They were sold out of the one item in the first 10 minutes and the other, advertised as being in stock, was never in the store.  I got home around 2 in the morning and slept until 3:30 in the morning when my wife and I got up to go K Mart to be there at 4am.  This trip wasn’t as bad because we did end up leaving with just about everything we needed.  The downside was the fact that you had to use the K-Mart reward card to get the discounts.  When it was all said and done, we saved almost $200 by using ours.  I did learn one thing though.  Black Friday is nothing but a bait and switch day for the retailer.  They’ll have a few of the advertised items but know they will run out quickly.  Since most people refuse to leave empty-handed, the retailers can then sell them another item at a higher price.

Obama Decked

President Obama was playing in a pick up basketball game the other day when he took an elbow to the yapper causing him to get 12 stitches.  The only reply I have to that is, SO?  Who gives a shit?  When my brothers and I played sports in high school we were always at the hospital.  No one ever did a story on us.  So Obama got an elbow to the face, it’s not the end of the world.  I can’t believe this is considered news.  People get little bumps and bruises

Obama before the fat lip

every day playing sports.  I know he is the president but come on people.  We have North and South Korea on the brink of war again and the press outlets are worried about Obama catching an elbow on the chin.  Please people.  Let’s focus on what is actually important here.

It was quite an interesting week.  I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving.  I know I ate too much.  Monday is the first day of deer season here in Pennsylvania.  I myself was an avid hunter years ago.  I just ask that every one stay safe and make it back home again.  Remember, it’s only a deer, it’s not worth dying over.  Christmas is coming up on the outside quick.  Let’s remember that this season is filled with parties and drinking.  If you must drink, please don’t drive.  In my years as a Paramedic and Fire Fighter I have seen the aftermath of what can happen.  I have had to make the notification to a family that their loved one was killed in a DUI related accident.  Let’s all stay safe and have a great holiday season.

Exterior Illumination 101


“It’s a beaut Clark.”  “Thanks dad, you taught me everything I know about exterior illumination.” Clark Griswold talking with his father – National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation.”

It’s that time of year when we see usually normal people go nuts with their houses.  Christmas lighting is the biggest cause of property values dropping for 1 to 2 months every year.  Some people think the more lights they put on their house the more people will think they have the most Christmas spirit.  I don’t want anyone to be the cause of their family’s exile from their neighborhood so I decided to write a blog on the do’s and don’ts of exterior illumination.

1.  Always pre-plan.  Measure the area where you are putting the lights so you don’t have either a big bunch of lights in one place or a big gap because you ran out.  Make sure you read the specifications on the lights to see how many sets of lights you can plug together.  Blowing a fuse will make your light display look trashy and junky.  Know where your extension cords are going to run and plug them in.  Nothing looks worse than a big yellow or orange extension cord running through the middle of your display.

"Houston, we have a problem."

2.  If your house can be seen from the International Space Station or planes leave their flight path you might have gone a little overboard.  We all laughed at Clark Griswold’s house in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” but face it.  We all see those houses every year.  To help you find out where you stand I will give you some tips to be aware of.

A) If your electric bill increases at least 30% during Christmas.

B)  If your electric company has to switch to auxiliary assistance and the power plant has to increase it’s power production from dusk to dawn to accommodate your display.

C) If airplanes call your house asking for clearance to land.

D)  If blind people can suddenly see.

3.  Pre-formed, lighted decorations are just plain ugly to start with but you can usually get away with one or maybe  two tastefully selected pieces.  If you choose to do it with more than that, you deserve whatever happens to you.  Below is yet another “what-not-to-do” example.

This is grounds to be exiled from your neighborhood

4.  Inflatable decorations are as sacrilegious to Christmas displays as a single strand of multi-colored or blue lights in your tree out front.  I thought it was pretty bad when I first saw the inflatable Santa on the motorcycle.  My next door neighbor told me that the old owners of our house used to have one on the roof of the front porch.  She is so afraid that we are going to put one up; mostly because I tell her we are.

Born to be...Naughty?

It’s probably a cruel joke but it’s still funny.  I thought the inflatables had pretty much reached the height of tackiness until my wife and I walked into our local Lowe’s Store.   I couldn’t actually believe someone had topped the Harley riding Santa but they have.  An inflatable trailer that Santa opens the door and leans out. Oh yeah man!  Where can I get mine.

Increase your redneck

"Officer, I heard a bunch of shots and saw this when I looked outside."

And don’t leave your inflatables uninflated in your yard.  It will look like a North Pole Massacre.

Not an acceptible alternative for the word Christmas

5.  If you don’t know how to spell Christmas or are just too lazy to put forth the effort, don’t abbreviate it with my most hated word X-Mas.  If you put it on an inflatable decoration I’ll come shoot it out of your yard myself.

"Eddie, I wouldn't be more surprised if I woke up and found my head nailed to the floor."

If you live in a motor home don’t decorate it with lights…Please.  If you do, I’ll expect to see you wearing a wool bombers hat, smoking a cigar, drinking a Meisterbrau beer standing next to the storm sewer saying; “Shitter was full!”

Now if I have given you the idea that you cannot tastefully decorate the exterior of your home for Christmas, I apologize because it can be done.  More than half of those that do decorate are tasteful and add a nice aesthetic quality to their homes and neighborhoods.  Of course to those of you who need to blind Space Shuttle Pilots all I can say is thank God you don’t live too close to me.

Nice without being tacky

Add in the snow and it's beautiful

These are two nicely decorated homes and add a nice element to the holiday season.  Just remember it’s Christmas, not how many lights can I possibly hang on my house.  Let’s make the season enjoyable for everyone.  I love driving around looking at lights.  I’d hate to see anyone’s Christmas spoiled by getting arrested for first degree eye-slaughter.

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